Friday, July 30, 2010

Meet Mysore's own magician Raj Bhat

There was a time when magic shows were performed on streets with no props and stage arrangements, but right in front of people watching all around. Remember the famous 'Indian rope trick' where the magician throws a long rope in the air and it would seemingly stand erect on its own.

The magician would then climb the rope and disappear, only to reappear after sometime from the ground. The trick is even today considered to be the world's greatest illusion and could not be repeated by any of the modern day magicians. These tricks were always a great entertainment, attracting huge crowds of people to these street magicians. With the passage of time and with rapid advances in technology and gadgets, the 'street magic' gave way to the 'stage magic,' where nothing short of miracles were created.

Magic is a highly skilled art of keeping the audience mesmerised till the end of the show. Today's magicians perform such acts that appears to be impossible and sometimes even supernatural, like walking on water, levitating in the air to name a few. But the truth is, all such feats are mere illusions and not real. They are so carefully designed based on simple scientific techniques, that they trick our senses into believing that what we are seeing is really happening.

Like another art, magic too requires learning and mastering skills that has to be perfected by rigorous practice. But for Jadugar Raj Bhat, a native of Mysore, magic seems to have come quite naturally, as an inborn instinct. Raj says, "I was so impressed after watching a magic show performed in the school where I was studying, that I immediately decided that I will become a magician. I started collecting books written by great magicians and also began practicing some of their techniques."

Thus Raj began his magical journey and started performing on stage that left the audience spell-bound. That he won a State award when he was just 14 years old and a National award when he was 16 for conveying a social message, is a testimony for his magical skills. He has chosen magic as a full-time profession and has already performed several magic shows in various schools and colleges. Raj who holds a Master’s degree in Psychology from Mysore University is the son of late Kasturi and Gopalkrishna Bhat.

"My desire was to serve the society through magic. With the intention of reaching more number of people, I joined Rotaract Club in 2001. In 2006-07, I was elected as the President of the Club when it won the Best Club Award and 27 various other awards in the Zone. In 2008, I was elected as the Charter President of Lions Club-Jayalakshmipuram. In 2009, I joined international social service organisation JCI Mysore Brindavan, and am presently involved in various social activities."

"I am also involved with various government departments like the Dept. of Kannada and Culture and Karnataka State Pollution Control Board. With the help and support provided by these departments, I am performing magic shows not only in Karnataka but in various parts of the country creating awareness among people on various social issues like importance of education, women empowerment, AIDS, blood donation, rural development, dangers of smoking and drinking, saving the environment, on the importance of life insurance, e-employment and other such issues through my magic shows and lecture demos," says a beaming Raj.

SOM had a tête-à-tête with Mysore's own magician at K. Vasudevacharya Bhavan on JLB Road, where a magic and ventriloquism (the art of projecting your voice so that it seems to come from another source, as from a ventriloquist's dummy) show was organised by Bhasange Balaga recently.

SOM: Does magic as illusion, evoke feelings of mystery in man?

Raj: Yes, it does. Magic is a sense of perception.

SOM: The great ‘Indian Rope trick’ was considered to be one of the staple performances for any magician. Is it still being reformed?

Raj: Yes, it is being reformed. As technology is improving, they are using even more advanced methods to perform the trick, like the use of remote controls. Once in a while, all magicians get together and discuss how best they can improvise their techniques by adopting the latest advances in technology.

SOM: Why are not magicians playing an active role in exposing fake Godmen who still continue to fool people by pretending to materialise ash, Shivling, gold-rings and other objects?

Raj: It’s not completely true that magician are not doing anything. Many, including me, educate children in schools after performing a magic show about how these fake Godmen are hoodwinking people using the very same tricks which they just saw. Of course, we cannot perform it in a big scale as some of the ingredients like chemicals used for the show are quite expensive, which we can’t afford to buy. Only if the government or some organisation sponsors it, then we are ready do it in a big way reaching more number of people.

SOM: What kind of educational role can magicians play? Not merely performing tricks, but also explaining to the audience how a magician uses the various laws of Physics and Chemistry to create such extraordinary illusions.

Raj: Magicians can play a great role in educating children through their magic while entertaining them at the same time. Just as a child would refuse to swallow medicine if given directly and when the same is given with honey, they will take it because of the sweetness. In the same way I convey my message through entertainment which reaches them easily and it gets registered in their minds.

For example, while performimg magic shows in schools sponsored by the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board, I passed the message not to burst crackers. After the show, teachers informed me that in spite of them advising the kids in the matter several times they wouldn’t listen, but after watching my show, nearly 60% students stopped bursting crackers. That’s the power of magic.

SOM: How do you differentiate between magic and reality?

Raj: While performing magic on stage we create money, but if it happened in real life why should we be performing shows at all? We can sit at home and make money and give away to all the needy people. Magic is all illusion which doesn’t happen in reality.

SOM: Which is your most satisfying per-formance?

Raj: Rope trick.

SOM: While performing a show, on what do you concentrate more, effects or on the performance?

Raj: In magic we have to concentrate on both, effects as well as on performance, because only if both go in hand and hand the magic works.

SOM: How did you learn ventriloquism?

Raj: Once I watched it on TV and decided that I should try it on my own. I could finally learn it after two years of intense practice. My first performance received a good response. I am now performing with a stuffed toy chimpanzee and a boy. I want to better it further by adding a third one, but am still practicing. This is a very ancient art form where in the old days, people living in caves and forests used it as a voice from the God, but with passage of time they began misusing it. Now it is reduced merely as an entertainment. The famous magician Uday Jadugar was the first to perform it and I was inspired by him.

SOM: Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about?

Raj: I request the government and the public to support and encourage upcoming young magicians to do better work for the development of the society. Presently, I am also exploring Black Magic, I take this opportunity to start research in this field.

[Raj may be contacted on Mobile 93424-97776].

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Is it a school or a grazing ground?

Both the State and Central Governments are implementing measures to ensure that all children compulsorily receive primary education and are educated at least upto matriculation. The recently introduced Right To Education Bill by the Centre is a step in this direction.

The State Government, on its behalf, has stepped up recruitment of Primary School teachers, providing amenities and other infrastructure facilities to the existing schools all over the districts. But just like any other Government initiative, their effective implementation is always saddled with corruption, lethargy and neglect. The endlosers are these little children who are deprived of their rightful education in their formative years.

Very recently, SOM carried an article on the deplorable ways in which food was being served to children at Nazarbad boys hostel run by the Social Welfare Department. The Government Primary School in Jayanagar, adjacent to ISKCON temple, is another example of apathy by the officials of Education Department in providing basic facilities.

With around 80 students attending this school, it doesn’t even have a proper toilet except for a dilapidated cement structure standing forlorn in a corner. The students are forced to attend nature’s call in the open field behind the school. Boys and girls take turn to quickly ease themselves and get back to class but the teachers go to the neighbouring ISKCON temple to attend nature’s call.

Weeds and wild bushes have grown in the entire courtyard in front of the school and in the surroundings. The school doesn’t have any compound wall. This makes it easy for the cattle and sheep to get inside for grazing and sometimes even straying inside class rooms. There were even instances of children witnessing snakes slithering in the area. Adding to the woes of these little children, there is no proper drinking water facility, except for a hand pump. There is also no power supply to this school.

About two years ago, nearly 20 Guntas of land was allotted for this school by the Government. But after that nobody bothered to take up any infrastructure work. Though it is compulsory that every school must have a playground, the children here are deprived of that opportunity. The authorities too have not bothered to issue the sports materials which must be provided to every school as per law.

In spite of the school being located along the main road, there are neither any proper traffic sign-boards nor a road hump. With heavy vehicles plying on the road, teachers help students to cross the road in the evening after the classes. When such is the state of affairs, how can the student strength be increased ? Very soon this school also may lack students like the century-old Lakshmipuram School.

In the midst of all these, a woman clandestinely residing there has fenced a small patch of land to grow vegetables and prevent straying cattle. The present school building has four blocks which was constructed in association with the Mysore Round Table-21. The area Corporator and authorities seem to have turned a blind eye to this school.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Saptamatruka temple first of its kind in city

Karnataka is the abode or penance, land of enlightened men, sages, yogis, acharyas and the place of truthfulness, righteousness and renunciation. It is the good fortune of all the Kannadigas to be in the dwelling place of music, literature, art and architecture.

The worship of the goddess of sakti is going on uninterruptedly from time immemorial. When man comes to know of his limitations, he discovered the unique divine power, thinking that power to be mother earth, he began to worship it with faith and devotion. Giving up the feelings of the rich and the poor, he regarded her as the tutelary deity of a village, or a state or of a nation. She transcended the boundaries of time, place and community, and established as a supreme power in the minds of people.

In the beginning, she was given a form in mud, wood, metal, stone etc. She manifested from within to without. Thus, the primordial Sakti, on account of her abilities of creation, maintenance and destruction, she became the goddess of dharma (righteousness); from a single form, she assumed many formed Saptamatruka. By filling all the desires of the devotees, she came to be called istartha pratayini and the goddess with unlimited powers born in the minds of people of various places, languages, religious is here in all resplendence.

The characteristics of this temple

Saptamatruka temple is the first of its kind in Mysore, is situated in the northwest, and built in accordance with agamasastras, excellence of place. The place is of istanya dikplava nairuti elevation, surabhigandhayukta and supadma character. While building this temple, dikparicheda, ursabhayani, vastumandala, amnayajapaya, devanisa etc., all these factors have been taken into consideration. The adhisthana has all the six kinds of khuras.

The head Posture, weapons and vehicles of the saptamatrkas in the sanctum sanctorum are all sculpted according to the agamasastras. Another specialty is that there is sri chakra chidamba meru prastara in one monolithic stone just in front of the devis in the sanctum sanctorum. In front of it, on the right side is Sri Mahaganapati, and on the lefl is Bhyravamurthy and in the north is sukhaduhkha devis.

Specialty of Deviparchayatana

In the portico, towards the northeast of the devis there is Dakshinamurthy deity racing South; in the southeast Satyanarayana deity is installed facing north, in accordance with the saying Sivaya Visnurupaya Sivarupaya visnave; in the south-west vinayaka deity is installed; and Surya in northwest. The fillet of the sanctum sanctorum is decorated with gaialakshmi, posts and leaves, alligator-banner.

In the ceiling other portico there are three fully blown lotuses. At the front gate there ale lions on either side, and doorkeeper’s viz., dhater and vidhatr are sculpted. In front of them there is a flagstaff measuring 3 I feet made of stone and a balipitha. There is one Mahadwara in front of it. This is a centre for religious, cultural and arts. The deities inside the prakara. On the upper side of the southern wall of the sanctum sanctorum, Brahma, Saraswati, narmada and tumburu are sculpted. Facing them are Jagadguru Adisankara, along with his four disciples; below that are nine durgas sculpted in accordance with the agamas.

On the western wall of the sanctum sanctorum are sculptured Kalpaurksha and Kamadhenu on the left are Sivaloka, Siva and Parvati., Kumaraswamy and Ganapati; on the right are the figures of Ganga and Yamuna rivers flowing from Kailasa; animals and birds devoid of their rivalry, living together in a rivers of penance. At the bottom is the picture of sixteen matricas. The famous idols or devi temples of India are installed here. On the northern wall Mahavisnu and Mahalakshmi are sitting on the Adisesa the couch and canopy of Visnu. On one side of them is Garuda, and on the other side is viswaksena. At the bottom Ashtalaksmis are sculpted.

Spire (Vimana) of the temple

In the temple of Saptamatrkas, Aksara devataas are represented from Akara to Ksakara. This is a unique feature in India-Each of the Aksara devataas have been depicted according to the dhyanasloka of the Agamas. Below the Mahanasika Alpanasika, towards the East is Ganapati, towards the South is Saraswati, towards the West Sri Chowdeshwari and towards the North Mahalakshmi idols are situated. Pranava ksara devataas are there next to Ganapati, and the idols or Mahakarikamba in the northeast, Sri Gayatridevi in the southeast, Sri Savithridevi in the southwest, Sri Saraswathidevi in the northwest, and the conventional vimana deities are also sculpted.

Devakosthakas on the ceiling of the portico: on the east are Ganapati, Saptamatrkas and Virabhadra, on the South are Parvati, Parameswara, Sanmukha, Nandishwara, and on the south are Lakshminarayana, Garud and Anjaneya.

At the four corners of the portico are sculpted Karnakutas, crore bhutas etc. Chejjas called Chadyas are built around the area enclosed round the temple. The temple is truly a heaven on earth. Subbarao Kallesh Bhaskar of Mysore, prepared the blue print of the temple and executed all the engineering works with extreme devotion. Prof. N. Nanjundaswamy, Archaeological Survey of India, Epigraphist has designed the temple in accordance with silpasastra and executed the work excellently.

Friday, July 16, 2010

"We prefer to starve than eat mess food", say inmates of Govt. Boys Hostel

The Government Boys Hostel in Nazarbad, despite being located in the heart of the city, is as pathetic any other such hostel in a remote rural region.

The hostel was started by the then Maharaja of Mysore with the noble intention of providing accommodation to the children of rural regions who come to the city to pursue education.

However, in the present condition, students are facing a harrowing experience due to unhygienic food and lack of basic facilities. The mess at the hostel, which comes under the Social Welfare Department, is literally in a messy state.

About 258 students, mostly belonging to middle class and poor families, hailing from villages in and around Mysore, are facing severe hardship at the hostel.

On learning about the problem, Mayor Sandesh Swamy, along with Health Officer Dr. T.S. Nagaraj, JD(S) leader Praveen Kumar and Corporation Zone-7 Assistant Engineer Somashekarappa inspected the hostel yesterday morning. The Mayor was surprised to see the staff serving rice very limitedly and a watery curry to the students.

On inspection by the officials, corruption was found to be rampant in the hostel. Food items were allegedly misappropriated by the mess authorities.

For a hostel with 258 student strength, the amount of milk purchased daily was a mere of 5 litres, and the diluted milk is served for the children.

Students complain

This is what the students had to say about the food served in the hostel mess: "The sambar, a regular feature on the mess menu, will hardly have any vegetables. Whatever the vegetables purchased, they are either rotten or cheaply bought discarded ones."

Even the rice and pulses are half-cooked — causing gastro-problems to many. Left-over sambar is mixed with rice the next day and served as Bisibelebath!

Neighbours suspect

All the groceries purchased for the mess out of government funds are clandestinely sold to nearby shops. Some items get pilfered too. "We have seen bags of groceries (especially rice, flour, cooking oil, condiments etc.) being sneaked out at frequent intervals," confided some neighbours.


• It is alleged that the staff prepare special dishes for themselves and feast at a time when the students are in school.

• Though students are allowed to watch TV with no extra cost, it is said that the staff play movie CDs and collect Rs. 3 per student.

• Though the government has supplied 10 books per student, many have received only 4 to 5 books.

• There are 12-15 members in a single room and they are given worn-out carpet without bedspreads to sleep on. Uniforms, soap and other toilet items are not yet issued to some students.

• Most of the toilets are out of order and lack basic health requirements. There are short-ages in the number of cleaning workers.

When SOM tried to contact the Hostel Warden Savithri over phone, she was not available.

What the students say:

Some of the students told the following to SOM:

"Almost all the dishes are prepared without adding cooking oil, are uncooked and taste bland. We prefer to starve than go through the ordeal of chewing on the raw food. Even though it is mandatory that eggs should be provided on all Fridays and special dishes served on Sundays, it is never done."

"The Menu Board displaying the list of dishes to be served to the hostel inmates is a mere formality. However, enough funds are drawn from the hostel’s mess account for the same."

If any student questions, the warden shouts using abusive language and some times they beat us also asking, "Yeno? Ninna appa tandu kottidara?"

"Many of our room-mates complain of stomach problems because of the half-boiled rice served. We have been quite used to getting stomach problems because of food. We cannot stop eating at the hostels because we are compelled to eat whatever is offered by the mess. We have no option at all."

Mayor’s view

After inspecting the hostel and hearing the complaints from the children, Mayor Sandesh Swamy assured of speaking to the Warden and solve the problem within a week.

"If the problem persists, I will take the matter to the department concerned," he said and also assured of visiting all the government hostels in the city in the days to come and take strict action if found guilty.

He instructed the Health Officer to make regular health check-up for children and to keep a vigil on the hostel activities and also instructed the City Corporation officials to provide sports items for children immediately.

Health Officer speaks

"First I will call the warden and question her. Then I will bring the matter to the notice of the Social Welfare Department. I will ensure that all basic facilities for the students are provided," said Health Officer Nagaraj.

Published on SOM dated 13, July 2010

Thursday, July 8, 2010

...and they did it!

Orphan youths successfully climb Kuari Pass

Like the famous one-liner of an international sports goods company that says, “Just do it!’ …. a small group of 15 orphaned boys and girls from Mysore, Pune and Tamil Nadu did precisely that. The orphans, joined by a supporting team of trekkers, trekked to Kuari Pass summit in Uttar-khand’s section of Himalayas. Kuari Pass trek is popular for the Himalayan peaks of Nanda Devi, Kamet, Mana, Trisul, Dunagiri, Bethartoli and others. The trek began on April 25 and concluded on May 14.

It may be recalled that SOM had published an article (SOM dated March 24) about the proposal to take orphaned boys and girls on a trek to foot of the Himalayan range. The trek for these orphans was organised by the City based, International Academy of Mountaineering and Allied Sports (IAMAS), and Society for Trekking and Environmental Preservation (STEP), New Delhi.

The happy trekkers are K.D. Devendra and Mahadeva Swamy from JSS, Suttur, Siddarth Bapu from Grace School, Kumbarakoppal, Anitha, Kavya and Shruthi from Bapuji Children’s Home, Savitha, Divya and Reshma from Govt. Girls Home, Siddharthanagar, Sakthi Kumar from Govt. Home for Boys, JP Nagar, Mallikarjuna, Juvenile Home (all from Mysore), and Suhas Dilip Bodake and Bhupesh Chadrakant Indulkar from Radhabai Hardikar Pranjit Mangal Sanstha of Pune. The trekkers were led by N. Shankara Subramanaya, supported by Pankaj Mallick, Shrisha Bhat, M. Mohan Kumar, Dr. Rashmi, M.S. Lakshman Raju, Somnath Pal Ashok Banka and Pradeep Bist.

The cost of the trek which was around Rs. 4,10,662, was borne by Australian Martin Gregory and his friends from Australia, who played the Good Samaritans. When a simple outing like a visit to the zoo for instance seems often impossible, a trek to the Himalayan range was like a dream that they wouldn’t dared to have dreamt. Aptly enough the trek was called, DREAMS -2010.

“Dreams-2010” is the first ever trekking expedition held exclusively for the orphan youths of Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. The expedition is the brain child of D.S.D.Solanki, Program Director of IAMAS.

The planning for the trip led to intense bon-ding among trekkers, with a lot of laughter and some tears (of joy).

Here is what these young trekkers say:

“I can smell those fresh flowers, the dew, the bustle of the breeze caressing our bodies and it was truly a climb up to face the creator himself.”

“Walking up to Ramni from Chepna. On Day 1, we had a breathtaking view of the Chaukambha mountain ranges. Day 2 saw us heading to Jhenji. The peak emerged and what a way to experience pleasure on Day 3 when we reached the villages Jhenjhi and Pana.”

“With our back-packs up, toeing in line, heads held high and with our gazes fixed at the distant hazy mountains, we set out on Day 4 from Pana to Santoli on a terrain which was more even surfaced and not so treacherous. Perhaps we were now getting used to the climb and were slowly inching towards conquering the mountains that made us take the hills in our stride. We camped there for the pre-summit camp to acclimatize ourselves before we attempted the next leap of our final climb. With a day’s break and making preparations — physical and mental — we left on Day 5 to Khulara from Santoli, when finally the moment of Eureka! Came—the KUARI Pass Summit — We had made it.”

“On Day 6 we took a break at Khulara where we had fun playing games, reliving the moments of physical struggle and mental resolve we endured. On the next day, Day 7, we walked down to TAPOVAN. The entire trek was so planned, it evoked the completeness of our lives and our connection with nature, both within ourselves and with each other.”

“The camp fires, the discussions, the small talks, the laughter, the songs, the splendid views of Nanda Devi, Neel Khant, Nanda Ghunti, Chaukhamba, Kamet, Mana, Hathi Parvat, Trishul, and a host of other celestial spots will be etched in our memories forever. This is how our planet earth was intended to be and we, young boys and girls, have a tremendous responsibility ahead of us to ensure that we slowly but surely ascertain that nature always remained in her pristine glory.” “We slept inside tents in our sleeping bags on the mou-ntain top, surrounded on all sides by glaciers, in the lap of Mo-ther Nature. ”

“Having lost my parents when I was very young, thinking of a trekking expedition in Himalayan Ranges was a distant dream and it was simply a DREAM COME TRUE”, says Devendra Kanakappa Dasara, a student of JSS and a native of Gadag.

“It was all possible because of IAMAS’s noble gesture of taking us to Himalayan ranges,” says Sharada, Salundi, Govt Girls Home, Mysore.

The youths scaled the famous Kauri Pass on May 8, 2010, which is at an altitude of 4,268 meters, in the Garhwal, Himalayas. At Kuari Pass, tears rolled down as trekkers, hugged each other and said, “We have done it Sir!”

Before ascending the Kuari Pass the team camped at various places like Ghat, Ramni, Jhenji, Pana, Santoli and Khulara, finally culminating at Tapovan. On the way the trekkers had a refreshing bath at the hot springs in Badrinath.

But this was not the only treat for these youngsters. They were also taken to Parliament House, Badrinath and Wagh Border (India’s border crossing with Pakistan) and this segment was co-ordinated by B.D. Sharma, Laxman Singh Negi and K.L. Sharma of STEP.

En route the team also visited Agra to see the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort, the Parliament House in Delhi and Red Fort, Golden Temple in Amritsar, Jallianwallah Bagh, Indian Military Academy, Forest Research Institute (Dehradun), Haridwar and Rishikesh. They even had a white water rafting expedition in Ganges organised by Ravers Expedition, Rishikesh.

This expedition was dedicated to the legendary mountaineer late Govindaraju of Deccan Mountaineering League, Mysore.

The last word goes to Ananya Deepanjali Kodandera of St. Joseph’s Central School, who accompanied the orphan trekkers, “Having trekked in various places in eastern Ghats, western Ghats and in Himalayan Ranges with IAMAS this expedition was really a dream come true, once in a life time experience for me.”